I came across two quotes that I really like because they focus upon a couple of aspects of life that we need to understand or at least acknowledge. The first saying deals with the need to think about things and plan a bit in life –
Life is the art of drawing without an eraser – John W. Gardner
At its most basic level this little quote is saying that in life we get no “do-overs”, there is no eraser; no ability to say “Ooppsie, can I do that again?” I thought almost immediately about a toy from my childhood that is still popular today – the Etch-A-Sketch. What a fun, and at the same time frustrating, toy that was. You could make really neat drawing on one, draw anything really; however, you absolutely had to really think it out and plan it out ahead of time, because there was no way to pick up the etching stylus inside and move it to a new location. It would be like putting your pencil on the paper and not being allowed to lift it again until the drawing is done. You can now get Etch-A-Sketch as a free app for your smartphone, if you’re up to dealing with a lot of frustration, give it a try. And as inspiration for what can be done without an eraser, click here to see a gallery of Etch-A-Sketch art or here to watch a YouTube video of an Etch-A-Sketch in action, albeit in the hands of a very patient artist.
When you think about it life is like that. Time is our stylus (or pencil) and we don’t get to stop time and go back or erase what we’ve done, if we’ve drawn ourselves into a corner. Our pencils are on the paper, so to speak and we can only move forward through time with the drawings that are our lives.
The other saying that seemed to fit is this one that is also about time –
Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards – Doren Kierkegaard
Our lives are often analyzed by looking back over events or decisions; it’s sort of like the stock market where everyone’s an expert on what happened yesterday and no one has a clue what will happen tomorrow. Actually the expert opinion about what caused the rise or dip in the market yesterday is subject to widely different interpretations; so there really aren’t any experts on that either.
What we strive to do sometimes is to look back at situations and reflect on our own actions. Why did we do that? What did we say that? What was I thinking? Reflections like that on the past help us organize and archive or experiences and thoughts about them into our knowledge base and eventually jell into what we call wisdom. Of course, by the time many of us become wise, the thing that we are wisest about may well be how differently things might have been had we only known then. There is a thin line sometimes between wisdom and regret.
I think one take-away from combining the thoughts from those two quotes is that you need to think things out before you draw a mistake into your life and that one way to help with that is to reflect upon, learn from the past and build your storehouse of wisdom; however, you cannot spend all of your time reflecting upon the past nor planning for the future; you have a today to live, so get on with it.